Two of Australia’s innovators in the building performance space, Buildings Alive and Envizi, have joined forces in a partnership that aims to deliver greater value for clients to optimise energy performance.
It’s hoped the partnership may open up new opportunities in the US, where Envizi has recently made inroads through a partnership with RealFoundations, and Buildings Alive has been working with University of California Berkeley campus and also Google.
The US Department of Energy recently reported on Buildings Alive’s work on a portfolio of 53 buildings at Berkeley, which resulted in daily average energy savings of between four and 13 per cent per building and total savings of 1.7 million kilowatt-hours, equating to US $185,000 over 12 months.
Under the partnership arrangement, Buildings Alive will offer its clients the option to add Envizi’s Equipment Fault Detection module and Soft Meter technology into the suite of resource efficiency services, and Envizi’s clients will have the option of engaging Buildings Alive to provide human-to-human engagement and customised energy optimisation programs.
In combination, this creates a broad offering that combines advanced energy monitoring technologies, data analytics and effective engagement programs.
Buildings Alive’s founder and chief executive Craig Roussac said the company had not previously partnered with any other firm. However both firms being independent and having ownership of their respective technologies made the partnership a good fit, he told The Fifth Estate.
The mix both enriches what can be offered to their respective clients and opens up opportunities for attracting new ones, he said.
The addition of Envizi’s systems means Buildings Alive will be able to tap into another layer of detailed, building specific information to add another dimension to analysis of energy performance in buildings.
Envizi business manager building energy solutions Lynden Clark said the company had been pursuing a market for its building energy optimisation software products for the past 12 months, after a period of working exclusively in the sustainability reporting and data space.
As a software company, it does not deliver the people-based services Buildings Alive does, Mr Clark said.
The element of engagement is, however, important for success in terms of achieving better building performance and this requires people on the ground with an understanding of the client and the building to deliver added value.
“It is a bit of a culture shift from pure technology to a programmatical approach,” he said.
Mr Roussac said the technology had complexity, and that the new offerings would have “layers” of technology, some developed by his company, that still deliver simple information outcomes in terms of making sense of a specific building.
He said the company’s organic expansion over the years had reached the point where having evolved and delivered services across energy, water use and gas usage, clients have been asking “what’s next?” in terms of optimising their property.
“This will be an exciting leap for them,” he said. “It provides an opportunity for engagement that takes into account data science, energy science and behavioural science. It’s a really well-thought through program.”
More staff may be needed if business grows in the US
Mr Roussac said that because the company was “very much focused on people to people relationships”, if the US business starts to grow, more staff would be needed.
“People who run buildings like to talk to people.”
One of the reasons to go for a programmatic approach, Mr Roussac said, was that in the company’s experience working with portfolios of buildings it had found there was an array of expertise across the individual buildings. This means tailoring the approach for each building to ensure people are comfortable with the strategies before taking them on a journey to optimise the building.
Adding in the data capabilities means that instead of a previous model in the market where audits and maintenance were scheduled, and therefore issues might not be identified for some time, the ability of the technology to deliver hourly data means system integrity can be regularly checked.
For Envizi clients, the option will then be for Buildings Alive to “triage and curate” the issue so as to minimise operational impacts, Mr Clark said.
“They are getting much more value in a timely way,” he said.
Mr Roussac said that saving energy was simply about running things better.
The majority of tenant complaints, he said, came when things broke down. Being able to pick up problems and being “right on top of things and ahead” means “happier tenants and energy savings”.
Both companies are focused on the commercial office sector as major area of business growth. Mr Clark said that not only was it larger than any other market sector, it was also more competitive in terms of energy performance, with NABERS ratings a major driver.
Other sectors to be pursued include large retail shopping centres, health and tertiary education.
Mr Roussac said his company had already worked with a large retail client and one in the education space.
The opportunity in the health and university sectors arises because they are like a precinct, Mr Clark said, with a large number of buildings, and are generally energy-intensive.
“We have to test the appetite in those sectors,” he said.